Review and Response to “Dear White Peacemakers”
Posted On July 27, 2021
This is a great book!
Osheta Moore writes in a style that feels like she’s invited you into her living room and you are sitting down and sharing food and a drink with her.
The book is addressed to White People and is full of encouragement, as well as some hard truths. There’s lots of learning that happens, but also plenty of compassion. And that’s what makes this anti-racism book especially unique – the compassion that flows through it. It stems from Moore’s faith – something that she openly talks about through out the book. It felt like a mix of Henri Nouwen, Maya Angelou, Richard Rohr, and Rachel Held Evans all in one.
The premise of Moore’s book is that the work of engaging in anti-racism is fused with peacemaking – and that makes her approach different and a challenge all at the same time. A challenge in that peacemaking in any regard is often unpopular. She has been influenced by several nonviolent peace activists in history – MLK, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Howard Thurman. The idea being nonviolent, not nonresistant.
One of the reasons I love Moore’s book is her focus on Shalom.
“I’ve spent the last decade calling in peacemakers to view their peacemaking in light of the Hebraic concept of shalom. I define it as God’s dream for the world as it should be, nothing missing, nothing broken, everything made whole. Because shalom is God’s dream and God is love, our shalom practices must be rooted in love. Therefore, I’ve invited peacemakers to resist peacemaking that is rooted in anxiety and to choose peacemaking out of a posture of love. When love enters the equation, everything changes. We begin to ask ourselves what we’re for instead of what we’re against. We stop seeing other people as enemies. We let empathy tenderize our hearts.” (pg. 30)
This continues on through the book with a solid theology based on that shalom – restoring relationships, dealing with reality, inviting White People to see the fullness of experience that has been hidden from our eyes. Moore continues talking about imago Dei and how it impacts this work, and directly deals with the violence of white supremacy and the violence of the lie that is has created and maintains that distorts the imago Dei and shalom.
Moore breaks her book into four parts – Part 1 is about healing from the effects of white supremacy. Part 2 unpacks how white supremacy has blinded us white folks from the pain of communities of color and give us ideas of how to partner with God to weep with these communities in their suffering. Part 3 deals with the defensiveness that we might feel. And part 4 is the practical part where Moore offers insights on how we can use what is intended to harm for good.
Throughout the book Moore shares personal stories, talks about things that are just stunning (like touching people’s hair – why would anyone do that?), and returns to a message of encouragement and hope.
In addition, Moore includes poems and last words of black men and women who have died because of white supremacy.
One of the topics that I found to unique to this book is the discussion about grieving the violence of white supremacy. Moore talks about this as something essential. White people are quick to jump on board successes that black people make and quick to move towards reconciliation – often without an actual understanding of what that really means. But there is a lack of grieving with people of color. I wonder if that is because we white people are just bad at grieving as a whole. Our society doesn’t have a healthy way of dealing with death – we sanitize it and make it hidden. We’re not good at losing – whether in sports, in school, our jobs, relationships, etc. No wonder we suck at grieving with people who have suffered. The point that Moore makes is that in grieving with people of color, we finally can identify with people who are going through loss, as if it is our own loss. Because it is. It is a recognition that your loss is my loss because we are connected in deep ways.
I highly recommend this book. And I welcome further conversation about it. If you are interested in talking about this book more, please reach out to me or leave me a message.